Struggling Lee Enterprises saves company with purchase of Indy

Lee Enterprises headquarters

As you may remember from late last week, scrappy media conglomerate Lee Enterprises has purchased the Missoula Independent, saving Lee from bankruptcy. Lee was already in bankruptcy back in 2011, because it spent $1.5 billion to buy Pulitzer, Inc. in 2005—a dark horse candidate for deal of the year, since News Corp. paid a mere $580 million for Myspace. Anywhom, Lee went broke buying newspapers. Now, like a fun and informative vampire, it must keep buying more newspapers to stay alive. But its waking nightmare of debt-service undeath is finally over, because it bought my newspaper.

The immense profits that the Indy generates will wipe out Lee’s debts in no time. After a few months of alt-weekly income, the Missoulian can stop writing rapturous features about Cabela’s, and the Beatrice, Nebraska Daily Sun can settle with the families of those kids from last year’s Thresher Days. We’ll all be rich—rich as newsmen!

By we, though, I mean everyone but me. Even a corporation as showered in gold as Lee Enterprises cannot justify my exorbitant fee. And don’t ask me to take a pay cut out of consideration for a mom-and-pop paper chain. My lifestyle simply could not bear it. Although nothing is certain now, I fear my days of making money hand-over-fist-over-emerald-strewn-coke-mirror might be headed to a halt. For all I know, this could be my last column. I excerpt here for posterity:

I know that when I got into this business, it was strictly for the cash. But over the last few years, I have developed an affection for you, the seemingly useless reader. Although writing this column provides me with enough money and drugs to deaden my connection to ordinary people, I cannot help but feel that we are in this together. We live in the same region, after all. Might it be too much to say that we belong to the same community?

I was too temperate to say so in print, but I’ll say it here: we do belong to the same community. That community belongs to Lee Enterprises now. May their two Missoula newspapers, the Missoulian and the Independent, remains as keen and incisive as the heads on a two-headed snake, and may that snake poop money for the rest of our wonderful lives.

Cultural appropriation? Day of the Dead parade ignores Mictecacihuatl

Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death, goes totally unrepresented in Missoula's Day of the Dead parade.

Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death (artist’s rendering)

Next week, Missoulians will put on skeleton costumes and parade down Higgins Avenue in one of this town’s oddest observances: the Day of the Dead parade. They’ve been doing it for 24 years, despite the fact that approximately 0.0% of the local population is Mexican. We love parades, though. This one concludes the Zootown Arts Community Center’s monthlong Festival of the Dead, which the ZACC describes as an “all-inclusive multicultural event that honors life and death through community involvement in the arts.”

Again, this all-inclusive multicultural event mostly includes white people. Is it therefore not a little problematic? Might the good people of Missoula not be appropriating someone else’s culture by celebrating this holiday? I agree Missoula’s Day of the Dead festivities stray unconscionably from cultural tradition. They make no mention of Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death. In fact, when it comes to appropriating the culture behind the Day of the Dead, the only people worse than Missoulians are Mexicans.

You can read all about in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which we chart the fine line between resisting cultural appropriation and enforcing cultural segregation. Centuries from now, when ape-robot cyborgs are marching through the ruins of Washington-Grizzly Stadium in skeleton costumes, people who are a quarter Missoulian will lambast them for stealing our culture. Fortunately, I will be dead. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!


Charter to Missoula: Screw you, we have a monopoly

The high-speed internet market (artist's conception)

The market for high-speed internet (artist’s conception)

I work from home, so when the internet stops working, I have a bad time. One such bad time was had throughout Missoula yesterday, when Charter internet service went down for the whole damn town. The Missoulian confirms the outage, but it doesn’t offer much else. Maybe that’s because even reporters can’t communicate with Charter except through their customer service call center, where a representative from the company would not say why the outage happened, when it would be fixed, how many customers were affected or what her own name was. Later in the day, a company spokesman declined to say most of the same things, although at least he offered his name. I hope the negative publicity from this failure doesn’t affect Charter’s busine—oh, right. They have a monopoly.

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Close readings: Heintzelman’s brush with potential dissent

Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem.

Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem.

Indy reporter and Missoula’s actual best journalist Derek Brouwer sent me this tweet from Missoulian publisher Mark Heintzelman, who narrowly avoided witnessing a protest at the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce. Granted, no one actually protested. But they might have, given the way things are going in this country. Quote:

Our colors were just presented at the annual meeting of the @MissoulaChamber and, thankfully, everybody stood.

What a relief! Again, no one knelt or raised one fist in the air or conveyed anything but deferential respect for the flag—sorry, “our colors,” because apparently we’re all sailors in the War of 1812—but if they had, Heintzelman would have been against it. He sounds a little disappointed no one did. Close reading after the jump.

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Home prices make Missoula a great place to charge other people to live

A $399,000 home in Missoula, MT.

A $399,000 home in Missoula, MT.

The median price of a home in beautiful Missoula, Montana has gone up $53,000 since 2011 and now sits at a quarter million dollars. Meanwhile, median household income holds steady at $47,029. On a 20-year mortgage, the median household must pay 38 percent of its income to live in the median house. On a 30-year mortgage, they pay almost exactly 30 percent. Renters, whose median incomes are much lower, can put 30 percent toward mortgage payments and get a $145,935 loan. There are currently 25 homes listed on Missoula Trulia below that price. Eight of them are auctions.

Missoula has a housing shortage, and it’s working on a permanent underclass. Now that home prices have reached a record high despite low wages, Missoula has become the perfect place to charge other people to live. Whether you sell your house to Californians or put it on our four-percent-vacancy rental market, you’ll find there’s no better place to own a home you don’t live in.

If you insist on living in your house, the all-time high property taxes that happen to coincide with all-time-high home values and all-time-same wages make the deal less sweet. But we can’t have everything. In fact most of us can have very little, and houses aren’t on the list. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which has already won me free attacks on my character from realtors. I’ll match honesties with any motherfucker in a red jacket, anytime.